August 2016 Issue

Sweet Tricks

- Added sugars can’t hide anymore. Nutrition Facts labels will now have to state how many grams of sugars in the package are added sugars. Manufacturers have until 2018 to comply.

- To find out how many teaspoons of sugar are in a packaged food, divide the grams of sugar on a Nutrition Facts label by 4. Four grams equals one teaspoon.

- Even “natural” sugars in packaged foods may be added sugars; for example: crystalline fructose, evaporated cane juice, and fruit juice concentrate.

Skim the Sugar From Your Diet

New guidelines recommend you cut your intake of added sugars. EN explores how to adapt these guidelines to the real world.

The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend we limit intake of added sugars to 10 percent or less of calories. This means that, for an average 2,000 calorie diet, only 200 calories should come from added sugars. That’s about 12 tsp (teaspoons) or around 50 grams a day. Any more than this, the guidelines say, and we won’t have enough room on our plates for nutritious foods. The American Heart Association recommendations are even lower, at a maximum of nine tsp a day for men and six for women (See "Sugar: Not So Sweet for Your Heart," EN May 2016).

So you add a teaspoon or two to your morning coffee. How hard can it be to stay under 12 tsp of added sugars a day? Harder than you might think, unfortunately. Beverages and sweets account for the majority of added sugar intake, but sugars lurk in a surprising variety of packaged foods and beverages. Currently, the average American adult consumes about 16 tsp a day; intake by children and teens is considerably higher.

Frosted chocolate cake 1/12 cake (1 slice) 13 tsp
Cola 12 oz. 9 tsp
Sweetened iced tea 12 oz. 9 tsp
Vitamin water 20 oz.  7.5 tsp
Lowfat vanilla yogurt 6 oz. 3* tsp
Quaker Instant Oatmeal,
Maple Brown Sugar
1 packet 3 tsp
Oreo cookies 3 3 tsp
Barbeque sauce 2 tablespoons 3 tsp
Granola bar, hard 1 28g bar 2 tsp
Whole wheat bread 1 slice 0.5-1 tsp
Pasta sauce 0.5 cup 0.5-1* tsp
*Added sugars = total sugars minus estimated natural sugars.
Source: USDA Nutrient Database and manufacturer websites.

Added vs. Natural Sugar

Whether they are sprinkled on at serving time, beaten in while baking, or poured in at the processing plant, added sugars are just that—added. Natural sugars in whole foods, like fruits, vegetables and milk, aren’t a problem. Look at it this way: It takes a while to eat an apple; the natural sugar enters your bloodstream gradually, slowed down even more by the presence of fiber in the apple. And it’s pretty tough to eat more than one apple at a time, so the amount of sugar you’re getting from a piece of fruit is self-limiting. When you drink a glass of something sweet, or wolf down that dessert, however, you’re pouring large amounts of sugar into your body at one time. Your metabolism isn’t designed to handle so much sugar in such a short time, and the result is bad news for your health.

Swapping out sugary treats in favor of naturally sweet foods cuts added sugars and calories, and increases nutrition. Add fresh or dried fruit to cereal for sweetness and texture that’s sure to satisfy. Cook diced dates in oatmeal to get a rich, dark sweetness similar to brown sugar. Try pairing fruits like bananas or apples with peanut butter instead of using jelly. For a heavenly dessert, grill peach halves or pineapple rings, or bake cored apples. Some simple changes can go a long way toward satisfying that sweet tooth without breaking the added-sugar budget.

Skimming Sugar

1 cup Honey Nut Cheerios 3 1 cup plain Cheerios with 1/2 banana or 10 grapes 
Starbucks Grande Cafe Mocha** 3*  Starbucks Cafe Americano 
2 teapoons processed peanut butter, 2 tablespoons grape jelly on 2 slices whole wheat bread 5-6*  2 teaspoons natural peanut butter with mashed banana or apple slices on 2 slices whole wheat bread  1-2 
12 oz. cola Water, milk or unsweetened iced tea 
Chicken breast w/ 2 teaspoons BBQ sauce Grilled chicken breast with herbs and lemon juice 
Pasta w/ 1/2 cup ready-to-serve marinara pasta sauce 1/2-1*  Pasta with chopped tomatoes, basil and garlic 
12 oz. lemon sweetened iced tea Iced herbal tea (such as raspberry or peach), unsweetened, or water 
1 28g hard granola bar, plain Fruit and a handful of nuts 
6 oz. lowfat vanilla yogurt 3*  6 oz. plain yogurt with blueberries and 1/2 tsp honey  0.5 
TOTAL: 37.5-39 tsp TOTAL: 1.5-2.5 tsp
*Total sugars minus estimated natural sugars **Assumes 14 oz milk. Sources: USDA Nutrient Database, manufacturer web sites, and My Fitness Pal.  Note: c=cup, T=tablespoon, oz=ounce, tsp=teaspoon, oz=ounce, g=gram


Judy Thalheimer, RD, LDN